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Mayor Meed Ward: Halton Leaders and MOH are on the same page

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*Please see below an op-ed piece by Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward that ran online in the Hamilton Spectator, and in the Nov. 2 print edition.

Your editorial, ‘Are politics trumping public health in Halton‘ (on Oct. 28) poses a number of questions any one of us would have answered had you asked.

Allow me to speak now.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve followed recommendations of our Medical Officer of Health (MOH), and urged our community to do likewise. We’ll continue to do so. Most recently, for example, based on the advice of our MOH, Burlington (and other municipalities in Halton) voluntarily cancelled fitness classes in city facilities, and suspended game play, while allowing practices and training to continue. We’ll review these decisions and modify as new health evidence or recommendations from our MOH emerge.

We adopted these voluntary measures (and more) to slow COVID-19 infections and avoid going back into Stage 2.

As we learned of the potential to roll Halton back to Stage 2, we offered health evidence to be considered by decision-makers. We wrote to the Premier, who makes the decision, and the Ontario Medical Officer of Health, who advises the Premier.

Our letters made a simple ask: consider all the health evidence in Halton and take a targeted approach to any shut down, based on health indicators.

Our health indicators are not the same as other hot spots, and in fact, we are continuing to trend down in new infections. This is good news, and a sign the voluntary measures we are all taking are working.

Though our outreach has been interpreted in a negative way by some, our request to base decisions on health data is not controversial.

There has been no disagreement from anyone, including the Medical Officers of Health, with that approach. In fact, your editorial also supports this approach.

Ultimately, the decision by the Premier not to roll Halton back to Stage 2 was based on health evidence, informed by advice from the Medical Officer of Health, as it should be. Clearly, the evidence we presented was persuasive that we did not warrant a rollback to Stage 2, based on our indicators.

We were pleased to be able to contribute to the dialogue and provide such evidence for their consideration before a decision was made. That’s what collaboration and partnership means. We will continue to speak out knowing our input is both sought out and welcomed by decision-makers and health officials alike.

Our letters have sparked interest across the country, not because of who wrote them, but what we said: base decisions on health evidence.

There’s been a fundamental shift in our community in the past week: residents and businesses have told me they expect to see a direct connection between health decisions and evidence of transmission risk.

It is no longer good enough to fluctuate between open, closed, maybe open, but closed tomorrow, or next week, or next month. That is chaos no one can plan for.

We must move beyond a simple binary choice of “open” or “closed,” to “open with restrictions.

I’ve heard many inspiring stories of voluntary measures businesses are taking to keep their staff and customers safe, while continuing to operate. Let’s build on these, and put them into standard regulations. Put the onus on operators to keep their staff and customers healthy — just as we put the onus on businesses to serve alcohol responsibly or they would be liable if their customers didn’t get home safely.

Penalize and shut down the bad actors, allow the rest to operate with clear guidelines.

COVID-19 will be with us for months, if not years. We need to learn to coexist safely. There’s no going back to the way things were. The new world we must enter is this — open with restrictions. Our communities expect no less.

— Marianne Meed Ward is the Mayor of Burlington, Ont.

RELATED LINKS:

PLEASE NOTE: To stay updated on what the City of Burlington is doing regarding COVID-19, please visit the dedicated pages burlington.ca/coronavirus (and subscribe) and bit.ly/mayormeedwardCOVID19updates, and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page — bit.ly/COVID19BurlingtonFAQ that are updated as new information becomes available.

A Burlington COVID-19 Task Force has been created to help support our community through this unprecedented emergency — updates will be provided at burlington.ca/COVID19taskforce.

To report an incident of non-compliance with provincial emergency orders, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service COVID-19 Hotline: 905-825-4722.

We’ve also created a dedicated page to feature the local organizations and businesses that have inspired us during the COVID-19 pandemic by taking action to support our community in new and creative ways — head to bit.ly/covidwallofinspiration.

HELPFUL RESOURCES & RELATED LINKS:

*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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Phone: 905-335-7607
Email:  mayor@burlington.ca

Media Specialist: John Bkila
john.bkila@burlington.ca
905-335-7600